I DROPPED off my daughter, Ava, at Gatwick airport last week at 5am. She’s going travelling with two friends for four months – India, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bali, etc. She’s 19-years-old. They are all off on a jolly before university in September.

Meanwhile, I’m currently staying at a friend’s little cottage in Colmenar, in the mountains above Malaga. The last time I was here was 13-years-ago with my family. Ava was just six-years-old. It was Christmas time and I have a wonderful memory and image of her painting flowers in a sketchbook on the doorstep in the sunshine, looking out across the Sierra Nevada to the east,

In the time in between, I guess she must have grown up, but I struggle to put a day or date when that happened. I hugged her and waved her off through departures, rucksack piled high on her back, she’s 5’4” and still looked about 12. In my head 19, in my heart my baby girl.

They say it’s tough growing up these days – clearly not very tough for Ava as she jets off to Goa and the sunshine. But sometimes I think it’s not the children who struggle, it’s the parents. As the accumulating years of their children are heaped upon them like a heavy rucksack full of memories, which they will carry gladly for the rest of their lives.

On this visit to Spain I left my family behind. I’m here on my own to enjoy the gastronomy and the companionship of old friends. Yet in a quiet moment of solitude, in a sanctuary of olive trees, almond blossom, eucalyptus, iris, the hot sun and the snow painted mountains beyond, I’m contemplating the riches they have bestowed upon me. Children become adults but share their youth with us along the way.

Just for a moment there’s space to unpack the rucksack, pull out a few memories and give thanks for their gifts.

I thought I was only here for the food, how wrong can you be?